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  8.   What health consequences are possible after exposure to radiation from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident?

The distant effects of irradiation doses less than 0.5 Sv may be seen after many months or years (ten to twenty)1. They include cancer and other diseases. Particular attention has been given to the "liquidators" (the persons immediately involved in liquidation/elimination of consequences of the Chernobyl accident) and the population which resided in the contaminated territories. Ten years after the accident, indicators of cell changes from the radiation were identified for a group of "liquidators". This impact is positively correlated with the intensity of the initial critical irradiation. It was found that chronic radioactive impact leads to an increase in cytogenic effect with time due to the process of accumulation of induced damages of chromosomes during the process of elimination of radioactive particles from the body.

1  U.S. Technical Steering Panel, "Radiation and Health Impact Facts."

Fig. 14: Opinions about the future expressed by various groups of population in relation to the Chernobyl disaster (in %). (By V.I. Sayenko and Yu.A. Privalov [Ca95])

Respondents Inhabitants of contaminated regions Migrants Inhabitants of non-contaminated regions
Optimists 14 27 45
Pessimists 60 41 27
Neutrals 26 32 28
General index of orientation to the future* -46 -14 +18

*Note:   A total index (I) of attitudes about the future was calculated using the formula: I = OP - PS where OP and PS are percent of optimists and pessimists, respectively.

Sociological investigations (1992-1994) are evidence for the estimation of post-Chernobyl conditions and the general physical and mental state of population. A sociological survey was conducted with 10,000 respondents.

Source: Sayenko, Yu.P. and Privalov, Yu.A., "Social and psychological footprints of Chernobyl". Vital values of the population which suffered from the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Estimation of the chances of their self-fulfillment during the post-Chernobyl period. Political Portrait of the Ukraine, No.12, 1995.

Fig. 15: Self-estimation of health status by
liquidators (in %)

Year of liquidation work I feel healthy My health has worsened over the past few years
1986 8.4 74.6
1987 14.8 63.4
1988 22.5 48.0
1989 33.3 37.1

Source: Volovich, V.I. et al., Participants in the consequences on liquidators of the Chernobyl accident as a specific social group (structure, social status, vital problems), Kiev, 1993-1995.

Birth rates of children with developmental anomalies in 17 regions of Gomel and Mogilev districts (where the density of contamination with radioactive cesium-137 exceeded 555 kbk/ml) were 3.87±0.32 per 100 births before the accident and 7.09±0.41 per 100 births after the accident.

However, scarce data on hydrocephaly in Norway, trisomy in Berlin, neural fiber defects in Turkey, and premature births in Finland were lost during many investigations which showed the absence of anomalies.

Fig. 16: Profile of birth rates for persons who resided in the contaminated territories (per 1000 persons).

Figure 16

Reduction in birth rates, increase in complications during pregnancy and birth, increase in infant mortality, anomalies in infant development, and increase in sicknesses have been noted among persons inhabited in the contaminated territories.

Sources: Gutman, L.V. et al., Health of pregnant women. The Chernobyl disaster. Kiev, Naukova Dumka Publishers, 1995; Krasnopolskiy, V.I., Fedorova, M.Ye., Zhilenko, M.I. et al., Pregnancy and birth in the region of the Chernobyl accident. Obstetrics and Gynecology, No.8-12, 1992.

Some studies show that the number of white blood cell diseases in Europe increased by 0.8%. However, studies carried out in Greece, Sweden, Finland, and the other most contaminated territories of Ukraine indicated that the number of these diseases has not increased. It is likely that the increase in the number of children's luekemias was not documented in Israel. Preliminary ECLIS reports did not indicate that the increase in leukemias was associated with one's stay in the contaminated territory, but the authors warned that prolonged observation of sick persons is required.

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